Skip to main content
Delivered by Armida Salsiah Alisjahbana

22 December 2020

2020 Sustainable Development and International Youth Innovation Conference


Youth representatives,   

Ladies and gentlemen, 

I would like to extend my congratulations to Shenzhen Municipal People's Government and the Government of the People’s Republic of China for organising the 2020 Sustainable Development and International Youth Innovation Forum.  

We are going through turbulent times as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to adversely impact the socio-economic fabric of our societies like never before.  

This crisis, indeed, is significantly slowing down the progress we have made towards the achievement of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and other internationally agreed development goals. 

Yet, by working together, we can find sustainable solutions to this crisis. The engagement of youth is essential in this process of recovery.  

With a population of over 717 million young people in 2019, the Asia-Pacific region is home to 60 per cent of the global population aged 15 to 24.  

Youth remains the driving force for socio-economic and cultural transformation of our societies.   

Dear youth representatives,  

The United Nations marks its 75th anniversary in 2020.  Over one million people from all countries and all walks of life have taken part in a survey on “UN75: The Future We Want, The UN We Need”.  

The survey results reveal a strong call for action on inequalities and climate change, as well as more solidarity. I am very hopeful that our shared future will be shaped by today’s youth generation.   

As part of this celebration, ESCAP has engaged directly with a number of young social entrepreneurs from around the Asia-Pacific region to share their unique and diverse experiences in advancing the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).  

It is heartening to witness the dedication of our youth leaders and representatives in working towards finding sustainable development solutions and directing their passion and innovative energies to a better future across all societies.  

As we chart out the pathways for a post-COVID-19 era, we look to the entrepreneurial spirit of the youth as sources of optimism and solution.  

These unique attributes of our youth generation are vital as societies forge ahead in this Decade of Action to accelerate progress on the SDGs. 

Dear youth representatives,  

I am delighted to recognise that the 2020 Sustainable Development and International Youth Innovation Forum with a theme “Enhancing City Resilience with Science &Technology to Achieve High-Quality Sustainable Development” will provide the young achievers with a platform to discuss how to build back better by leveraging science, technology and innovation (STI).  

I hope the experience of Shenzhen in recovering from the pandemic provides useful references to other cities in the Asia-Pacific region. 

In this context, I am pleased to note that the Forum also covers important topics on digital economy and digital skills. It is clear that the pandemic has greatly accelerated development of digital economy, especially electronic commerce and digital skills in the region.  

This trend highlights the importance of advancing economic participation and empowerment of youth in developing their skills and adapt to the ever-changing landscape of technological transformation.  

By integrating teaching and learning approach and innovation, the young generation can participate in accelerating policy formulation, design and implementation. 

Dear youth representatives,   

I have been encouraged to witness the commitment of young entrepreneurs to spur innovation and economic dynamism across all parts of our societies, which is creating decent jobs and providing livelihoods to millions.  

Allow me to highlight three priority areas to leverage youth power in finding lasting solutions to our socio-economic and environmental challenges.  


First, let us ensure that the next generation of business leaders think about social purpose as well as profit. Role of education is critical in this endeavour. Governments need to support students and young entrepreneurs identify innovative business solutions to address SDGs challenges.  


Second, let us scale up innovative financing solutions. Governments are increasingly embracing impact investing as a policy tool to provide much-needed finance to young social entrepreneurs. In this case, there is an economic argument to provide tax benefits to social entrepreneurs as well as investors in social enterprises. 

Third, let us harness the potential to spur mass entrepreneurship and new ways of doing business. Governments must work with the private sector to develop digital finance and green solutions for young women entrepreneurs. These initiatives can ensure smooth access to finance and ICT, and increased opportunity for capacity development.  We have to scale up these tools by enabling ecosystem and business environment required to catalyse women's entrepreneurship.  

Dear youth representatives,   

ESCAP, along with UN system and development partners, is working closely with member States and all stakeholders to explore new ways to reach out to young people and engage with them to innovate solutions by leveraging STI in implementing the SDGs.  

I am committed to take youth-led and related initiatives forward as we accelerate solution-oriented actions in the post-COVID-19 era in Asia and the Pacific.  

I wish you a very successful Forum.  

Thank you for your attention.  

Print this article


Trade, Investment & Innovation +66 2 288-1234 [email protected]